Featured Interview With Renee Garrison
Tell us a little about yourself. Where were you raised? Where do you live now?
I grew up in Boston but moved to Orlando, Florida, when I was 14 – before Walt Disney World opened! (That practically makes me a native Floridian!) My amazing, 5-pound peke-a-poo reached 16 years old before she left me to chase the angels. I hope to find another furry friend to love. Until then, I dog-sit for friends!
At what age did you realize your fascination with books? When did you start writing?
I discovered my love for journalism by writing for my high school newspaper. After receiving a degree in Mass Communications, I was hired as a staff writer at The Tampa Tribune. I love so many characters, but there’s one who made an early impression on me – “Harriet the Spy” by Louise Fitzhugh. At 11 years old, Harriet carefully observes others and writes her thoughts down in a notebook as practice for her future career.
I, too, always carry a notebook and pen with me so I can scribble thoughts in the car, on beach chairs – I’ve even done some pretty good work on the back of vomit bags during long airline flights! I must have coffee, though, and chocolate seems to help my creative process a lot.
Who are your favorite authors to read? What is your favorite genre to read. Who Inspires you in your writings?
It’s too hard to choose! My guilty pleasures include the John D. MacDonald Travis McGee mystery series and Randy Wayne White’s Doc Ford novels. Both authors accurately describe the Florida landscape (as well as the quirky people who live in the Sunshine State.)
Tell us a little about your latest book?
What if you were the only girl living in a boys’ boarding school?
My Young Adult book, “The Anchor Clankers,” tells the story of Suzette LeBlanc, who never had a brother – at least, not a biological one. But she acquired 150 of them as a 14-year-old freshman in high school. That’s when her father became commandant of The Sanford Naval Academy, a military boarding school in Florida.
Yes, I grew up in a boy’s academy.
In 2010, I returned to Sanford to see the old school building. Though the naval academy closed its doors in 1976, the building was used by a missionary group that graciously gave me a tour of my old home. Memories came flooding back and a book was born – a book which took me SIX YEARS to write.
My life was a bit unique as the only girl in a boys’ boarding school. But the book deals with themes such as prejudice, peer pressure, and coping with change, which are common to all teenagers. My main character moves from Boston to Sanford in 1971. Not wanting to move is normal. Leaving behind everything that’s familiar is frightening. I want my readers to remember that they’re not alone. According to the National Military Family Association, “military children will say good-bye to more significant people by age 18 than the average person will in their lifetime.”
“The Anchor Clankers” is a medalist in the 2017 Florida Authors and Publishers Association Book Awards.
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